By the Hanukkah Light.
Sheldon Oberman. Illustrated by Neil Waldman.
Preschool - grade 3 / Ages 4 - 8.
Preschool - grade 3 / Ages 4 - 8.
Rachel loves Hanukkah at her grandparents' house. She loves Grandma's and Grandpa's soft hugs and kisses, the smell of potato pancakes frying in the kitchen and the sweet taste of applesauce spooned from the jar.Oberman, author of the award-winning The Always Prayer Shawl, has returned to the theme of religious traditions and inter-generational family connections. While spending Hanukkah at her grandparents' home, Rachel asks her grandfather to tell the family the Hanukkah story, to "tell it the same way you do every year." After Grandpa recounts the "traditional" story of the recovery of the Great Temple by the Jews over 2000 years ago and the subsequent miracle of the Temple's lamp's burning for eight days on a single day's supply of oil, he is questioned further by another grandchild, Jacob, who wants to know if child-Grandpa celebrated Hanukkah the same way that he and Rachel do now. To the children's questions, Grandpa answers positively until asked, "Did you put the [Hanukkiah] in the window so everyone could see it?" To respond, Grandpa tells them a previously unshared "story of our family." The tale he relates is of his childhood experiences over 60 years ago in Europe when Jews were being persecuted and how his family had to flee, leaving behind everything, including their Hanukkiah. Many years later, however, he returned as a soldier and visited his former home, now destroyed. There, miraculously, in the ashes, he found the Hanukkiah, the very one that now stands in their window. The book concludes with Rachel's saying, "When I grow up and have children, I will tell them these stories the way you have told me."
She loves helping Grandpa clean the Hanukkiah -
a silver candle holder shaped like a tree,
a tree guarded by a lion that stands at the roots.
The roots hold the tree trunk, a thick knotted tree trunk.
The trunk holds nine branches, nine heavy branches.
The branches hold nests, nine little nests.
The nests are for candles, nine colored candles.
And the candles are for lighting on each night of Hanukkah.
Although World War II is never directly mentioned in the text, in an interview, Oberman explained, "Hanukkah is very much connected to the Holocaust although people don't consciously connect it because it's supposed to be a happy holiday and you only remember the miracle moment. However, behind that miracle was a time of terrible suffering ..." It is Grandpa's second, contemporary story which powerfully separates By the Hanukkah Light from other children's picture books which simply provide the historical explanation of the eight day celebration.
Throughout the book, Oberman's text and Waldman's acrylic illustrations appear on facing pages with both being printed on marbled paper of various colours which generally match the story's changing moods.
Dave Jenkinson teaches children's and young adult literature courses in the Faculty of Education, University of Manitoba
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Copyright © 1997 the Manitoba Library Association. Reproduction for personal use is permitted only if this copyright notice is maintained. Any other reproduction is prohibited without permission.
The Manitoba Library Association
TABLE OF CONTENTS FOR THIS ISSUE - OCTOBER 3, 1997.
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